Eagle Profile

Wesley Wells

Wesley Wells was a B-17 Flying Fortress Ball Turret Gunner with the most decorated Bombardment Group of the 8th Air Force in World War II. Born in Phoenix, Arizona, he was introduced to target-shooting at an early age and had won a national level rifle-shooting medal at only 11 years of age. He enlisted in the Army Air Corp in April of 1943 and was sent to Las Vegas Gunnery School in February of 1944. He was selected and trained to be a B-17 Flying Fortress Sperry Upper Local Turret Gunner and upon graduation was assigned to Rapid City Army Air Base in South Dakota. In September of 1944, his crew was assigned a B-17 and sent to Prestwick, Scotland, where they would become members of the 526th Bombardment Squadron in the 379th Bombardment Group. On the way to Preswick, the reality of the situation started to set in for their Ball Turret Gunner, who threatened to leave his position unmanned for fear of his life. To prevent his friend’s court martial, Wells selflessly agreed to swap positions and trained himself as the crew’s Ball Turret Gunner. Although this position was arguably the most dangerous position on the aircraft, he remained there for his crew for their entire time in the 379th Bombardment Group. His crew flew eleven successful bombing missions of synthetic oil plants, aircraft component factories, aerodromes, and transportation routes in their first month alone. Their efforts directly contributed to the 379th Bombardment Group’s impressive record which included the highest sortie count of the 8th Air Force, greatest bomb tonnage dropped, and lowest sortie abort-rate of any other group. On their 24th mission over Germany, Wells’ aircraft malfunctioned and the pilot was forced to land in enemy territory. Wells became a prisoner of war on 9 February 1945. As a POW he was transferred to six different POW camps throughout Germany. He was ultimately released on 29 April 1945. After his return to the United States, Wells was sent to Laredo, Texas, as a gunnery instructor on the B-29 but was honorably released from service a few weeks later. For his service, Wells was awarded three Air Medals. After the war, he attended Arizona State University earning his Master’s Degree in Education. He remained an educator for more than 40 years. Wells is retired and lives in Hawaii with his wife Phyllis. They have three daughters, one son, eleven grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.

Years Honored:


2013 Lithograph

Lithograph Setting(s):

From 4 November 1944 to 9 February 1945, Wesley Wells was the B-17 Flying Fortress Ball Turret Gunner for twenty-four critical bombardment missions over enemy Germany. On their last mission, their B-17, serial number #44-6119, experienced critical engine failure and landed in enemy territory leading to three months as a prisoner of war. For his service, Wells was awarded three Air Medals